Saturday, 19 October 2013

19th October 2013 - Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

Life, like all things in life, is a balancing act.

No, wait. I got that wrong.

Life, like all balancing acts, is really difficult.

There, that's what I basically mean to say. Now, if you care to read on, I'll be saying fundamentally the same thing. Be warned. I might remove this later on. It's a bit honest, and I don't want to endanger my position within UCL, UCLU or the comedy community by moaning about being... well, just read it.

The last time I blogged properly, I was in the Induction week. I went to a couple of induction events- for Master's students, for my own MA, gatecrashed one in the Dutch department. It's a blessing I don't drink, otherwise I might have been constantly -slightly sozzled-. It's difficult enough for me not to make a knob of myself when I'm sober.

On the level of Student Union things, I was successful to a degree that I didn't expected. I got into a Fresher's Play called Love and Money (reviewed for the UCL Union paper here:, I started working with UCLU Comedy Club, doing improv and, just once so far, Sketch. Auditions for the Fresher's Plays were on the Friday. I was at UCL anyway, so I chose to rock up. The recalls were on the Sunday. I spent a long time there, auditioning for different roles, with different people. But, having just moved into my more long-term accommodation (in Hackney. It's very nice, thank you very much), I wanted to spend as much time as I could actually doing stuff.

For the next bit of information to work, I have to explain something first. My laptop, trusty since January 2010, is at death's door. I can't use it for 5 minutes without it suddenly freezing, usually necessitating a reboot. This meant I was at a disadvantage with regards to choosing optional modules. I could only do it on Uni computers. I could only access those when I was there and I'd usually have to wait AGES for one to be free. This also meant convening with the MA conveners frequently. For instance, I found a course I really wanted to do. I went to the people involved and got it sorted. Then, the next day, I found out that the first seminar had been and gone on Monday afternoon. I don't know about you, but doing an 8000 pound MA, I refuse to miss a single session. So that one went. Additionally, I found out that the seminar I'd chosen for the second term was actually being taught in the first, luckily, on Friday. I was moved into the course, but only got a tentative OK, because I was actually one student too much for the course, officially. This had then also be taken care of, by me. Also, I had successfully auditioned for Love and Money. Myself and Annie Hawkins had a difficult duologue to do. My brain, unfortunately, was slightly buzzing with everything, so I lost quite some sleep over it, by learning, relearning and relearning it again when I messed up. Also, I had to register with a GP and a bank. The bank was all right, but despite repeated visits to the GP, they have refused to register me. I cannot register at the UCL GP, because I live too far out of the way. I initially couldn't register because I didn't have my NHS number to hand. I phoned the Sussex University Health Centre (where I was registered in 2010) who refused to give me my number unless I went to Brighton and show up with my passport otherwise they wouldn't give it. Now, I am yet to register proper after 3 visits and finding the practised closed on two separate occasions. I also had promised my friend Alexander Bennett that I'd come to see the first night of This Is Not A Cult, the new comedy night he's doing at the Camden Head. I thoroughly enjoyed myself, but I was on edge and couldn't get to sleep afterwards. My first stand-up gig, at Pearshaped in Fitzrovia was scheduled the day after. I was inordinately stressed out over it. Even though I enjoyed it thoroughly, again, I barely slept. Also, the registering at UCL kept on throwing me curve balls, like the message that I was supposed to pay half of my tuition fees before the end of the month. Because my MA is funded by the Dutch government, I only get my tuition fee loan on a monthly basis. Result: all out panic. The next day I had a chat with someone from the Registry, we made an appointment about the paying of the tuition fee. The Dutch government itself, was being difficult and I needed to write them asap. The first week of term, therefore, was slightly manic. And when I say 'slightly', I mean massively. I was already tired from moving country, which is an intense thing in itself. I hadn't really recovered from Edinburgh, nor from the 3 weeks in Holland I spent trying to move country. Sigh.

And that was only the first week.

I enjoyed doing Love and Money, but I was stressed out to a ridiculous degree and it might have been better not to do it in the end. But I couldn't have foreseen this. I still have to buy a bicycle, because I spent 2 pounds 80 a day travelling by bus to and back from UCL, which is about 2,5 hrs on the whole. Usually there are problems with the bus or on the route, which means longer waiting times and additional walking to UCL from the middle of Camden or home from the middle of Stamford Hill. I can't relax on the bus, due to too many people crowding in and me being in general stressed out and therefore anxious of others. Which isn't fun.

The weeks after weren't much less stressful. In the second week of term I did a gig in Brighton with Nigel Lovell and Alex Kealy. The trip was fun, the gig was hard work. I met some friends who saw I was as stressed out as I was and rightly told me this was not the reason I moved to this country. It wasn't. Tuesday to Thursday I spent reading Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann. I thought by just reading a novel and staying inside, I'd be able to chill out a bit. No such luck. Although I did really enjoy the book, it was a weight on my shoulders. If I had known I'd be doing this module in the summer I could have read it then. Now I had 3 full days to read all 600 pages in one massive Mann-based binge. Good as it was, I got slight cabin fever, my brain fizzing constantly with the things I still needed to take care of.

On the whole, whenever I managed to take care of an issue, this didn't manage to reduce my stress levels about that issue. Everything that made me anxious and I couldn't deal with just became a heavier weight on my shoulders. I didn't feel relieved after those stressful aspects of life had been taken away. It just became worse.

What I then do, is knuckle down and do more. The only way to escape feeling anxious and stressed out is, essentially, doing more and finding more specific rest-moments. For instance, I learnt from the Love and Money-experience and didn't do the recall for a production of Woyzeck for this reason. On the Sunday, I met up with friends from Sussex in Soho. We had a nice chat over coffee and cake, after finding with difficulty the place where they were, after taking care of more uni-business at UCL. I felt anxious, and disappointed in the way I acted. I wasn't a dick to them, but I just didn't really feel like myself. That I'm sorry about. The day after, I had another gig, which was inordinately stressful. I tried to hide in the performance space before the lights were on and people came in. I was politely shown the door, until I could go back to do the gig. This was another comic-heavy gig, so people didn't really listen. Understandably, they had their own material to think of. The audience that was there preferred homophobic, racist and misogynist stuff anyway. So I didn't succeed, really.

The day after that, there was a change. I didn't have a 600-page novel to read, so the only way I could rage at myself is for sleeping too late, because I can't get to sleep at night, or for not eating enough. I am currently involved in running a stand-up comedy workshop with UCLU Comedy Club. It's a friendly, no-stress environment where students can come and try material out on a nice crowd. I enjoyed this a great deal and I'm looking forward to the next one. And every one in the near future. I find it difficult to try material in circuit gigs, since they tend to require punchy, jokey stuff straightaway. And I'm rambly at the best of times. When I'm tired it's even worse.

Thursday, my friend Jane, who had come down from Scotland, was in London. We met up at Goodge st. Station, in the middle of a teacher demonstration. I find it difficult when I really want to support something but can't -or won't. I'm not good with crowds. What I do is pat someone on the shoulder and tell them I support their cause. Yeah, I know. What a dick.

Then Jane came out of the station. We spent an hour sitting in an inner city garden talking about our lives since the Edinburgh Festival. We've both had a pretty rough time. She then proceeded to take me around London. In Soho, I somehow managed to get us really cheap tickets for Matilda, that night. We had a great lunch, a great dinner (all vegan. I feel bad about eating meat per sé, it's worse when I'm anxious like I am now) and some high quality convo. We've known each other for more than 4 years now, and we've remained friends ever since. After the show (which. Was. A. Mazing) we said our goodbyes and promised one another to take life at a more leisurely pace from now on.

Jane has a Poetry Pamphlet out. It's called Short Term Parking. Buy it. Watch her here:

After an enjoyable seminar, I attempted to buy a phone. I didn't succeed. This will be turned into a bit, because it's beyond Kafka.

In short: Life has been ultra-eventful. I, for my part, am broken. I need to find a way in which I don't hate myself for being lazy but also one in which I don't hate myself for doing to much (and failing). There is also the notion of not burning out, which I need to take seriously. As a result, I've taken today off. Tomorrow, I'm reading a book on Translation studies and doing a gig at Brand Spanking Comedy in Chelsea. I'll also try to add to the Gig list. I'm still looking for gigs. Preferably nice ones. In the next week, I will try to sort myself out, as my life (hopefully) becomes more and more sorted out too.

Life is a balancing act. The past three weeks have been among the most stressful I've had over the past couple of years. But I hope to one day find a golden median where I don't hate myself (as much) and I actually have the energy to enjoy a full life. I don't at the moment, but any kind of compromise feels like failure. Ah well. As Jane always says: Keep on keeping on. That's what I'll do then.

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